Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
To publicize the Corridors and Borders program and highlight the FY 2000 application process, the FHWA held a series of workshops in the summer and fall of 1999 in Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Atlanta, GA; Seattle, WA; and Phoenix, AZ. About 170 Federal, State, local and regional officials attended at least part of one of these workshops. The workshops featured case study presentations on Corridors and Borders projects selected for funding in FY 1999 and open microphone sessions where participants could ask questions or provide comment on the program. The workshops were designed to solicit input from participants on evaluation measures for the program, as well as the program's future direction. Participants included Federal, State, and local government employees; MPO staff; and representatives from a number of trade and citizens groups.
While workshop participants had a range of comments on the program, some responses were fairly common. The most often heard comment was a dislike of Congressional designation of funds (the first occurrence of such designation was approximately contemporaneous with the workshops). The second most often heard comment was that grant money was being spread too thin. That is, too little funding was being awarded to actually make a difference in project implementation, improving trade or dealing with bottlenecks.
During FY 2000 and early FY 2001, the FHWA Office of Corporate Management (HCM) partnered with the FHWA Office of Planning, Environment and Realty to review the NCPD/CBI program. The review involved structured interviews of about 70 State, regional and local officials regarding the program. These interviews allowed follow up questions and in-depth comments concerning the same general issues addressed in the workshops. The same two issues (i.e., Congressional designation and thin spreading of funds), mentioned in the workshops, were much discussed in this review. In addition, considerable desire for a fixed solicitation, application and award schedule was expressed. A number of planning and operations officials commented that the program size was too small to accommodate construction projects and that eligibility should be limited to planning and operations. A number of officials in border States said that the program size was too small to accommodate border and corridor projects and that the eligibility should be limited to border States . There was considerable discussion of the fiscal constraint portions of the planning regulations. Fiscal constraint essentially restricts the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) or State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) to projects for which supporting revenues have been identified. This impacts the NCPD/CBI application process, which stresses funding to projects already in the STIP. In addition, a number of officials indicated a perceived favoritism in the large awards to certain States within the awards made by US DOT selection.
The findings of the review generally dealt with changes that could be made in the selection process and changes in statutory language that could be considered during reauthorization. The former became mute since, in subsequent years, Congress made all the project designations. The latter were evaluated as part of the FHWA input to the FY 2004 reauthorization.
The FHWA published a notice in theFederal Registersoliciting "intent to apply" for FY 2002 grant applications. As explained earlier in the "Facts and Figures" chapter, there was uncertainty as to whether FY 2002 funds would be available for discretionary project selection by US DOT. Martin Weiss, the principal program official, conducted the first FHWA live interactive web-cast on June 7, 2001 to provide further guidance. The web-cast covered the history of the program, program administration history, and the reasons for soliciting "intent to apply" as opposed to actual applications. About 20 questions were received during the web-cast. Most dealt with how to submit "intent to apply" statements, e.g., how long a statement should be, what should be in the statement, should endorsements be included.
Subsequent to the FY 1999, FY 2000 and FY 2001 awards, the FHWA offered debriefings concerning the selection process and why individual applications were successful or not. Two dozen debriefings were conducted over the three years (most of these were conducted immediately after the FY 1999 awards). In general, applicants wanted to discuss ways to improve their application (e.g., what would be the impact of more endorsements) or wanted to know more about how States with many awards received the awards.
Another post award debriefing is included in the reports submitted by US DOT in compliance with Section 1311 of TEA-21 as amended. These reports state the reasons why selections were made. The US DOT filed reports related to the FY 1999 and FY 2002 awards under the NCPD/CBI program, but not the intervening years. Reports required by Section 1311 of TEA-21 that have been furnished for the NCPD/CBI program are included in the appendices to this report.
From FY 1998 until the present, delegations of project advocates visited the FHWA and US DOT headquarters to make presentations with a general purpose of seeking NCPD/CBI funds. Such delegations often include elected officials. Sometimes the presentations were for the Secretary of Transportation or the Administrator, sometimes other offices in the FHWA (especially when the project was eligible for receiving funds from multiple sources). In general, the primary reasons cited for project advocacy were to solve congestion, circulation problems, or to promote economic development.
From FY 1998 until the present, numerous letters, phone calls, facsimile transmissions and email were sent to the FHWA regarding the NCPD/CBI Program. Most of the letters were from Congress and specifically supported individual project applications. The other feedback
was from a wide variety of sources. These included: individuals in residential neighborhoods opposing projects, academic officials in foreign countries doing research, local officials seeking to find out if their application had been received, State officials requesting clarification of application format, and employees of Congress requesting information on eligibility. The most common question by far, was a variety of "how does our project get money?" By FY 2002 and even more so during FY 2003, there were fewer questions related to the project evaluation process within the FHWA or the US DOT and more related to the history of Congressional designation of funding.
The FHWA NCPD/CBI program administration official, Martin Weiss, has also made site visits to inquire about specific aspects of six projects. This has always been post award. The reason for these visits varied. Some were made to assess specific problems or issues. In general, the site visits confirmed information provided by project implementation officials. Some of these visits also resulted in the development of information on noteworthy NCPD/CBI "success stories."
 Some interesting details about the web-cast were that over 1400 different computer terminals hooked into the web-cast with over 700 "end to end" viewers. The demand for viewing overwhelmed the capacity of both the internal and external file servers of the FHWA host office.